It is not anti-incumbency, it is not lack of a development model, it is not corruption, but plain and simple political ineptitude that seems to have done in Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar.
Not too long ago, even critics were singing paeans of praise about the chief minister, who had made the state safer and had introduced a model of development that was supposedly pro-people. But the man who was even talked about as a prime ministerial candidate today finds himself up the creek without a paddle. And he has no one to blame but himself.
For a start, he precipitously pulled out of a strong alliance with the BJP in the state. This, of course, caused the Congress to cast covetous eyes at his party. But by issuing an ultimatum to the Congress on special status for Bihar and holding a yatra, he forced the party into the waiting arms of the RJD. The BJP went about its business tying up an alliance with the LJP.
Today, it would appear that the BJP has been steadily eating into Nitish Kumar’s traditional caste votebanks. The chief minister, a Kurmi, finds that Narendra Modi has been assiduously wooing people from his caste as well as other castes that have traditionally supported Mr Kumar. This explains his rage at Mr Modi, whom he accuses of having winkled away his ‘old companion’, the BJP. And gratuitous advice on how the BJP treats its old guard is not likely to fetch Mr Kumar any electoral dividends.
The so-called development model may have made Patna a safer place and encouraged education among girls but vast tracts of Bihar are still grossly underdeveloped. Its backward castes still live in medieval squalor and its social indices are abysmally poor. Mr Kumar’s problems don’t end there. His flirting with a potential third front has also not paid any dividends, with the Left refusing to play ball.
Another headache for him comes from within his own party. While preaching democratic values, Mr Kumar, like many other political leaders, does not seem to have applied them to his own party. He and he alone takes decisions on candidates for elections and has not constituted a parliamentary board meeting for years. He has, or so some of his partymen allege, given tickets to turncoats as against party loyalists.
A number of senior party members have deserted the JD(U), including those who had seen Mr Kumar as a messiah of development not just for Bihar but even possibly India. This is a classic case of a leader who has not been able to build on the positives of his tenure. When other parties are pursuing and cobbling together alliances, Mr Kumar seems politically marooned. This is a comedown for a man who, if not once a potential king, could at least have been a kingmaker at the Centre.